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Essendon 34: ASADA chief ready to front full inquiry, if required

The head of Australia's anti-doping authority says he would ready to appear before a Senate inquiry into the handling of the Essendon supplements saga – should one be called.

Ben McDevitt, who succeeded Aurora Andruska in May, 2014 as head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority – more than a year after the injecting program became public – said he would assist government authorities in whatever capacity was required.

"If the government deemed a Senate inquiry necessary, ASADA would assist as expected," he said.

"However, there have already been a number of inquiries into ASADA's conduct throughout this case, including Federal Court cases, all of which have found that ASADA acted within its powers and in accordance with Australia's anti-doping framework."

ASADA's joint investigation was found to be legal by the Federal Court, after Essendon and former coach James Hird had challenged this.

Greens leader Senator Richard di Natale and Victorian senator John Madigan have called for an independent review of the way Australia's anti-doping agency handled the Essendon charges, while many Essendon members have added their voice on social media and in emails to Fairfax Media.


Di Natale would have questioned the ASADA boss at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday night but earlier appearances by non-related parties ran late into the night, and time expired for ASADA to appear. 

Madigan has also asked to be given classified material, including the raw Australian Crime Commission report that sparked the "blackest day in Australian sport" press conference in Canberra in 2013. He has yet to be given this. This report would include the ACC's interview with Stephen Dank, the architect of the Bombers' injecting program.

Dank spent two days before the ACC and answered 84 questions through two coercive interviews.

It's believed Madigan has settled on his terms of reference in draft form calling for an inquiry.

Di Natale has said "what was highlighted through this case is ASADA were unable to meet the challenges that were put in front of them in terms of responding to the case".

"The question of whether individual sporting codes should be policed themselves, that is setting up the sports tribunals to look at cases within their own code, there is the potential for a conflict in that instance as well."

The 34 past and present players have appealed their year-long ban to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, arguing a legal technicality that the hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport should not have been "de novo", or begun afresh. They argue the hearing should only have been on the grounds of legal error or over an unreasonable penalty.

The players insist the 2010 AFL anti-doping code did not allow for a de novo hearing. A new code introduced last year did, but the players believe the case falls under the original code, as the ASADA investigation began in 2013.

Sports lawyer Daniel Stuk said the players faced a tough fight to clear their names.

"The problem with the argument is that CAS considered what would have happened if the AFL anti-doping policy had remained as originally drafted and WADA had sought a de novo hearing as part of its appeal. CAS ruled that it would have been able to hear the appeal as a de novo hearing regardless," he said.

"In fact, CAS ruled that all CAS appeal hearings are to be heard de novo, regardless of whether the national anti-doping policy is silent or contradictory on this point."

Stuk said CAS had been able to unshackle itself from the AFL anti-doping tribunal's decision, which found there was insufficient evidence to rule the players had been given the banned drug, thymosin beta 4.

"Unlike an appeal based on a mistake of law, CAS did not need to defer to the AFL anti-doping tribunal's findings of fact," he said.

"The players were subsequently found guilty on pretty much the same evidence as was presented before the AFL anti-doping tribunal."   

WADA director-general David Howman said last month the players' lack of curiosity about the Bombers' controversial supplements regime was one aspect that contributed to their suspensions.